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Casar to pay Pressley’s court fees, but they’re not much

Monday, March 18, 2019 by Jo Clifton

When Council Member Greg Casar filed the report on his special officeholder account on Jan. 15, it showed just $321.91 in the account. The purpose of that account has been to help Casar pay the legal fees in the lawsuit filed against him by Laura Pressley, his opponent in the 2014 Council election.

The Texas Supreme Court issued a final judgment on that case in January. The ruling was a victory for Casar and Travis County in that the court found that the election contest was moot because Casar had already completed the term of office. However, the court also gave Pressley a victory by reversing sanctions ordered by the trial court and the Third Court of Appeals.

The court said, “Pressley’s claims individually and collectively might have been losing ones, but they were not frivolous. The election activities that Pressley complains about could create a perception of impropriety, and such impropriety might make the election results unknowable, which is precisely her argument. Her evidence might not have been strong enough to win on the merits, but she had at least some evidence and legal basis for her claims.”

Due to some confusion at the Supreme Court, Pressley was first notified that Casar would have to pay her $18,000 in fees after the high court threw out the lower courts’ sanctions, which added up to more than $100,000. Pressley immediately put out a press release about the court costs and declaring victory, even though the court ruled that it was too late to consider her claim about problems with the vote count. Pressley’s spokesman, Andy Hogue, said they were surprised when they learned from an Austin Chronicle reporter that the amount Casar owes her is considerably less.

According to Chuck Herring, one of several attorneys assisting Casar, another attorney in the case, Kurt Kuhn, notified the court about the error and it was corrected. Casar is liable only for the court costs incurred at the Supreme Court, not the costs at the trial court and the Court of Appeals, where he prevailed, Herring explained.

The amended bill of costs shows that Casar owes Pressley $265 and her attorney, David Rogers, $175, for a total of $440. That’s more than he has in his account.

Hogue told the Austin Monitor that Pressley did not know why the bill was amended, but he said Pressley was grateful to the Supreme Court for recognizing that her claims might have some merit. The Supreme Court stated that the lower courts abused their discretion in sanctioning Pressley.

Casar won the 2014 election with 65 percent of the vote and was easily re-elected in 2016. On Friday, he reiterated that he does not like talking about the lawsuit and prefers to focus on issues related to his job as a Council member. When he spoke with the Austin Monitor, Casar was going into a meeting with Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. He said he recognized that he might have to raise more money to pay the court costs.

Pressley has started a new organization called True Texas Elections, LLC, which she said Friday would be “focused on election integrity in Texas,” but did not elaborate.

Photo by Emmanuel Huybrechts from Laval, Canada [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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